Remote controls for robots can be big and bulky, they can be integrated into your phone, and occasionally they even fit like a glove. The Shadow Dextrous Hand is a robotic arm that allows for fine motor control and precise movements. It's accurate enough to pick up an egg, screw in a light bulb, or thread a needle. Even cooler, researchers can control it with a "Cyber glove", allowing for 24 distinct human movements that mimic the user's own hand. A British based company, Shadow has been displaying the hand for several years now, and recently demonstrated its latest model at IREX 2009. The hand, toted as the world's most advanced, is available for sale to researchers (pricing has not been made public). You can check out an older demonstration video after the break. Make sure to watch at 1:24...the situation is a little creepy to me, but hey, everybody likes something different.
Mimicking the human hand is a big part of robotics research. We've seen dozens of these kinds of limbs, some super fast, some super simple and gentle. There are other gloves that control robots, like the Acceleglove which uses finger movements to correspond to commands for electric servos. Shadow, however, is extremely life-like in its demonstrations. It's a tad bit slow at times, and it lacks tactile feedback, but watching it in action you can almost imagine its human. Of course, Shadow Dextrous Hand weighs a bit more (4kg), is made of aluminum, resin, and polycarbonate, and has twenty motors. Still, seeing the sort of advanced movements and controls in this hand make me believe that fully functional humanoid robots aren't that crazy of a dream. Who knows, if we can get the brain-computer interfaces working well we may all be living in robots like these one day. If so, I hope we get to keep the glove. It's a cool look. Michael Jackson would be proud.
[photo credit: Reuters]